Our cascade partners are now busy getting to grips with OERs as they are working on one of developmental tasks set by the project team, all with the intention of preparing them to start repurposing and releasing their own content fairly soon. As this is the second time we’re going through a similar process with the project partners, we’re feeling somewhat older (well…) and wiser and very keen to impress some rules from the very beginning. Rule number one: do talk about the OER club, whenever and wherever you can. Rule number two: design with openness on mind. The latter also happens to be one of the key recommendations of the pilot programme: develop content with licensing, IPR clearance, accessibility and reusability in mind, as trying to retrofit the resources later will be costly and time-consuming. If you were on the lookout for a cheesy proverb to illustrate that recommendation, “a stitch in time saves nine” comes handy. The small decisions made at the outset of designing your teaching resource (i.e. picking an accessible format or avoiding copyright nightmares), whether it is destined to become an OER further down the line or not, can make a huge difference. In addition, paraphrasing Steve Wheeler, there are so many good things about OERs that designing with openness in mind should be a win-win situation – a simple and hugely beneficial process.
At the same time, if it is such a simple yet powerful idea, why can it be so difficult sometimes to get the OER-novices to move beyond their comfort zone? I do talk about the OER club quite a lot, and especially whenever I venture beyond the close-knit OER community. Quite often, the response I get from my interlocutors is that in principle OERs seem like a great idea, destined to make it straight for the bottom of the ever-increasing to-do list. Interestingly, the larger theme of reluctance to small changes which can have beneficial long-lasting effects is quite familiar to those trying to bring about effective public health interventions. You know, the extremely boring and tedious tweaks to everyday routines – changing to a healthier diet, limiting alcohol consumption, increasing the amount and intensity of physical activity, or stopping smoking – which could potentially lower the risk of developing major chronic diseases by up to 50%. These are precisely the changes that most people do not bother to implement, instead choosing time after time the short-lived pleasures of a take-away combined with sofa quality time. Similarly, on the education front, they might choose to stick to the safe territory and keep creating same old PowerPoint lectures destined for the VLE prison, decorated with third-party content lifted straight from Google Images, peppered with inaccessible audio and/or video content of questionable copyright. At the same time, as study after study into the efficacy of public health interventions shows, trying to scare or force people into changing is generally unsuccessful; overall, joy of living is a much better motivator than fear of dying (not to mention a well-coordinated approach at the patient, provider, and health-policy levels but this does not come with a very nice immediate cheesy metaphoric image as this blog post seems to heavily rely on them). So, how does one embed not only openness but also joy into educational practices?